#20 “Bloody Destiny” SMT: Persona, Composed by Shouji Meguro & Co.
With a theme like this, I just imagine the boss confronting your party on the dance floor to see who can bust out the baddest moves (or whatever kids say these days). Nothing gets you in the mood for a boss battle more than the laying down of a phat beat, after all. It’s also complimented by vocals that are in questionably intelligible English, something that’s become something of a staple in recent Persona games.
#19 “Boss Battle” Grandia, Composed by Noriyuki Iwadare
In this classic and surprisingly underrated PS1 RPG, we have quite a unique boss theme. It’s also one of the longest on this list, in terms of when it loops again. I love how it builds tension with its rumbling bass and frantic piano. After a while, it has a complete change of mood when it switches to a jazzy (almost disco) organ line. Far out. This theme, along with the active nature of the game’s battle system, makes for some really exciting boss battles.
#18 “Fight Against An Armed Boss” Super Mario RPG, Composed by Yoko Shimomura
Aw yeah, just listen to that steady, relentless rhythm that just carries you throughout the entire fight. The main melody is carried by sinister yet comical sounding synths, which fits with the aesthetic that most of the bosses from this game have. The beauty of the Mario RPG family is that it never takes itself too seriously, and that philosophy can be heard loud and clear through its always great music.
#17 “Victory is Right Before Your Eyes!” Pokemon Black & White, Composed by Junichi Masuda & Go Ichinose
The original Gym Leader battle theme is great and all. Far be it for me to knock a classic, but I think deserves the title of best boss battle (except for a certain Champion theme that we may see later in a Final Boss Theme list) from the Pokemon series. The way it just kicks in when the Gym leader throws out their last Pokemon is superbly epic, and I love how it remixes the original title screen theme. It’s too bad that I usually one shot the Gym leader’s last Pokemon because I want to hear the music longer.
#16 “The Ends of Battle” Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, Composed by Revo
Once again, more games I haven’t played yet, but this has been my most anticipated title for as long as I can remember. Considering the composer is from a famous rock band, it’s no surprise that the battle themes are equally as rockin’. Who doesn’t love a little bit of prog rock, anyone? Its structure isn’t overly complicated either, similar to themes from the SNES days. Still, there’s a lot of gratuitous guitar shredding to be had, mixed in with some softer bell sounds to fit the aesthetic of the game.
#15 “Seeking Victory” Tales of Legendia, Composed by Go Shiina
I haven’t even played this game, and yet I’m in love with the whole soundtrack! Go Shiina’s music is just so different from a lot of styles that have become standard in RPG’s (I’m looking at you, Sakuraba). The most marked difference would be the heavy use of strings and wind instruments, rather than ambiguous synths and guitars. The different instrumentation easily draws out different emotions from the listener, especially in this track with its many changing faces..
#14 “J-E-N-O-V-A” Final Fantasy VII, Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
And here we have the theme of the target of our Oedipal affections, and the first in what will surely be a series of entries dominated by Nobuo Uematsu. I tried guys. I really did, but it’s literally impossible for me to leave off the great boss themes that have been brought into our world by his hand. I think the first thing people notice is that this theme feels lighter than the normal boss theme, utilizing a smooth descending line of arpeggios while keeping a quick bassline. All of this is contrasted with a melody that takes a more stately approach.
#13 “Battle With The Four Fiends” Final Fantasy IV, Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
It’s a shame we only really get to hear this theme four times throughout the game, but damn if they aren’t good fights. FFIV is probably the first game in the series that made use of bosses that changed tactics on the fly, which was made possible through the introduction of the ATB system. Like the Four Fiends themselves, this theme seems to have a bunch of different personalities to it and is chock full of jerky rhythms and aggression. Also, if you haven’t heard Hyadain’s vocal parody of the theme, you’ve been doing yourself a disfavor.
#12 “Turn It Up!” Code of Princess, Composed by ACE
Whenever Atlus is involved, you can be sure that there will be good music to be had. Like, this theme sounds like it belongs on a stage more than in a boss battle. I half-expect some Japanese guy with a handsome voice to start singing partway through. I love the machine gun guitar riffs that get repeated before the theme breaks down into chill lulls and then goes into the heroic “chorus.”
#11 “Clash On The Big Bridge” Final Fantasy V, Composed by Nobuo Uematsu
“You shall not pass!” said Gilgamesh to Bartz and the gang. Well, not really. This incarnation of Gilgamesh is nowhere near that cool, but his battle theme is! In the intro, the synth runs wild on top of an oddly dramatic bassline. This intro sets up the pace for the rest of the theme which is peppered with short, almost schizophrenic notes and interplays with the bass. What I love about this era of game music has to do with the limitations themselves. Each voice is so distinct from each other and has a clear objective and personality. Everything works together to make some seriously unforgettable music.